Monday, 21 April 2014

Updated 2012 R2 Orchestrator Integration Packs - Fixes ConfigMgr Console Crash

Since the release of System Center 2012 R2 there has been an issue with having the Orchestrator console, with the ConfigMgr integration pack installed, on the same system as the ConfigMgr console.

Having both of them installed would result in the ConfigMgr console crashing when trying to open it with an error similar to this:

Microsoft.ConfigurationManagement has stopped working
Problem signature:
Problem Event Name:          CLR20r3
Problem Signature 01:         LRE420M52QQYT0KWXNWESOVVMQF5I2RH
Problem Signature 02:         5.0.7804.1000
Problem Signature 03:         50adcdf1
Problem Signature 04:         System
Problem Signature 05:         4.0.30319.17929
Problem Signature 06:         4ffa5c88
Problem Signature 07:         5b0
Problem Signature 08:         19
Problem Signature 09:         N3CTRYE2KN3C34SGL4ZQYRBFTE4M13NB
OS Version:                       6.2.9200.
Locale ID:                          1033
Additional Information 1:    5861
Additional Information 2:    5861822e1919d7c014bbb064c64908b2
Additional Information 3:    dac6
Additional Information 4:    dac6c2650fa14dd558bd9f448e23afd1

This was seen previously in the SP1 release -

Thankfully the other week an updated version of the integration packs were released.

Note:  Following are the fixes in this release (4/3/2014 - v7.2.167.0):
  • The Configuration Mangager integration pack will cause the Configuration Manager Console to fail when opened.
  • The System Center Operations Manager Monitor Alerts activity can get an out of memory exception when processing a large amount of alerts.
  • The Exchange Administration activities will fail when using Exchange Online with redirection enabled.
  • The Configuration Manager Deploy Task Sequence can incorrectly set the remote client flags if you set the Download locally when needed property. This will cause the client to incorrectly evaluate it and will not run.
  • The Invoke REST Service activity was incorrectly setting the header information when using basic authentication that resulted in a 401 - Unauthorized
  • The SharePoint Integration pack will not connect sucessfully to SharePoint online if it is configured to use Active Directory Federated Services.
  • The SharePoint Integration pack Get List Items will fail to return values for column types of Choice.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Windows Server 2012 R2 Update (April)

Microsoft announced at //Build a new update for Windows 8.1 that brings new UI features and improvements.

* Updated 08/04/14 - Required Update Changes *

Alongside this is also the fact that the same update is applicable for Windows Server 2012 R2.
The update will be available from the 8th April via Windows Update, is currently available for TechNet and MSDN subscribers and available from the 14th April for Volume Licensing customers as integrated media.

Microsoft have stated that this update will become the new service base for Windows 8.1/2012 R2 moving forwards meaning that all new updates after April will require it to be installed first.

Microsoft have being saying that as part of this update it includes previous update rollups before March, however on first boot I did a scan and found these updates as required:

Doing some further checks also shows (based on MSDN media) these following updates as offline serviced into the image:
  • KB2919442 - March servicing stack update
  • KB2919355 - Windows Update April and top level wrap for the following updates
    • KB2937220
    • KB2938772
    • KB2939471
    • KB2949621

So for a nice clean deployment based on the new Windows Server 2012 R2 Update media we presently only require 2 further updates and these two can be offline service added to the image.
Previously if you ran an update scan before the 8th April (When the April Update went GA on Windows Update) you saw some rollup updates from February and March.  This now isn't the case, but there are some further updates along side the April Update.
So now we have:
Hang on... KB2919355?? This is slightly odd since I deployed this VM using the MSDN media with KB2919355 integrated.  Looks like there must have been some last minute changes since going GA.
This doesn't include .Net 3.5 updates which are shown below but need adding after deployment due to .Net not being able to be offline serviced into an image, best done as part of creating your reference image.
  • KB2898868
  • KB2901125

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

System Center Service Manager - Here to stay!

When talking to customers over the last year or so, it's often been a pointed question that I get asked, "How serious are Microsoft about Service Manager?"

I can sometimes understand why I get asked this.  Since the initial 2012 release, Service Manager has seen relatively little in terms of new features and also very little in terms of performance and bugs fixes.

Well today, Microsoft (in a very pleasant transparent manner) have posted on their Service Manager Engineering blog a statement that shines light on the future approach for SCSM and helps show that Microsoft are not in anyway thinking about abandoning the pivotal component of the System Center stack.

You can read more here:

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Creating Service Connection Point (SCP) for Virtual Machine Manger using PowerShell

After an installation of System Center 2012 R2 Virtual Machine Manager today I was greeted at the end of the Wizard with a message that it couldn't register the SPN or SCP and to manually check them.

It's not the first time I've seen this message and rather helpfully the message directs you to run the ConfigureSCPTool.exe utility This is usually run with syntax similar to this:
"C:\Program Files\Microsoft System Center 2012 R2\Virtual Machine Manager\setup\ConfigureSCPTool.exe"  -install VMMServer.DomainFQDN DomainShort\VMMServer

However when I ran it this time, it didn't create the Service Connection Point (SCP) for me (The SPN's btw were correct already).

The SCP is important as it provides a lookup point in Active Directory for the consoles to connect to the VMM server and I also believe that Bare Metal Deployment of Hyper-V hosts use it in some form.

I could have created the SCP manually using ADSI Edit, but since I'm scripting the installs at the moment, I took 5 minutes to wrap the creation into a script.
The script can be found here:

The script basically takes an input of your Domain NetBIOS (short) name, your Domain Fully Qualified Domain Name (FQDN), your VMM Server and the service account that your VMM service runs under (I haven't tested with a local system account!).

The script when run will create the SCP object under your server computer object in Active Directory with the required Keywords, Binding Information, Class Name and DNS Info.

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

2013 - A Year in Review

As is the norm with the end of the year I thought I would add my 2 pennies and present my 2013 summary post.

Significant software releases:

Microsoft are in the process of adopting a new development cycle or "Rapid Release Cadence" that we started to hear more about as people talked about the "Windows Blue" project code name.

The first fruits of this saw the following releases this year:
  • January 15th
    General Availability (GA) release of System Center 2012 Service Pack 1 (SP1)
  • August 27th
    Release to Manufacturing (RTM) of Windows 8.1 & Windows Server 2012 R2
  • September 9th
    RTM versions of Windows 8.1 & Windows Server 2012 R2 released to TechNet and MSDN
  • October 18th
    General Availability (GA) of Windows 8.1 & Windows Server 2012 R2 & System Center 2012 R2
    Windows Intune "Wave E"
    Visual Studio 2013 
  • October 22nd
    Just a few Windows Azure Releases...
    General Availability (GA) of Windows Azure Backup Services
    Public preview of Windows Azure Hyper-V Recovery Manager
    Virtual Machines Imporvements (Delete Attached Disks, Availability Set Warnings, SQL AlwaysOn Configuration)
    Windows Azure Active Directory 
    Windows Azure SDK 2.2
  • October 28th
    General Availability (GA) of Windows Azure HDInsight

That's not bad going if you ask me, 7 months between 2 major System Center and Windows releases and a raft of Azure releases.
Not only that but the R2 releases packed in more than a few new features that we have been used to in the past.

However, this new rapid release cycle not been without its problems.
This year has been plagued with problematic software updates, some (KB2887595) with quite disastrous effects (BSOD your Hyper-V cluster anyone?).

There were also numerous problems with the SP1 update for ConfigMgr.

Aidan Finn has a good summary post of Microsoft's new rapid release cadence here:

Addons, Tools and Utils

Over the year there's been some excellent community and partner releases for System Center.  Here's a round-up of some of my personal favourites.

Third Party/Partner Releases
  • Ensight Dashboards and Project Connector from expit
  • Orchestrator End User Portal from ITQ
  • Various Service Manager Utils from SCUtils
  • The ever excellent App Store from Cireson
  • An excellent replacement Service Manager Portal from Syliance
  • Operations Manager Dashboards from Coretech
  • It goes without saying, LiveMaps from Savision
Community Releases


There was a flurry of good books released:

And there's nothing better than some free books!!
The following titles can be found via the summary link below the list.
  • Designing Orchestrator Runbooks
  • Configuration Manager Field Experience
  • Troubleshooting Configuration Manager
  • Cloud Management with App Controller
  • Optimizing Service Manager
  • Network Virtualization and Cloud Computing (Coming Soon)
  • Building a Virtualized Network Solution (Coming Soon)
  • Integrated Cloud Platform (Coming Soon)
  • Introducing Microsoft System Center 2012 R2 Technical Overview

Biggest thing in Private/Hybrid Cloud this year?

Well, I think it has to go jointly to the Windows Azure Pack (WAP) and one of the new components of Orchestrator - Service Management Automation (SMA) that works in conjunction with WAP.

These new additions to System Center 2012 with the R2 release aren't going to jump into place in every datacentre overnight, but they're well worth taking the time to take a look into and start getting your hands dirty with them.

WAP brings the familiar interface of the Public Azure Cloud management portal into your own datacentres bring the ease of management and familiarity to your Private Cloud.

SMA brings the power of PowerShell workflows to enhance your automation in conjunction with WAP to really help drive your Private/Hybrid cloud offerings.

There's an excellent blog series for WAP here along with a "Getting Started" guide for SMA here

If you prefer a more visual/auditory approach, come join us at CloudOS Community for a webinar by Damian Flynn (MVP) who is presenting on WAP on the 8th January 2014.
Tickets are available here from Eventbrite.

So what's happened personally to me in 2013?

Well at the end of August I left my then employer and decided to be brave and setup my own company (PowerONPlatforms) to provide Private/Hybrid Cloud consultancy and also bring a new product to the market, a Cloud Management Appliance based on System Center 2012 R2.  It's almost ready and 2014 should be a great year /fingers crossed.

I got a nice surprise in October when I received the e-mail announcing that I had been awarded the MVP award in System Center Cloud and Datacentre Management!

I became involved in the community site as a director and we're slowly building up to what should be an amazing community to be a part of.

I was invited to come and do some sessions at the UK Tech Days Online in November, you can watch the on demand stream here and see me floundering about as what should have been a good session on building up networking in VMM went to pot thanks to the demo gods and my Surface struggling to get a network connection /facepalm

As part of the Cloud OS community I jumped on the road, along with a bunch of talented people that we corralled into joining us, where we presented at sessions around the UK as part of our CloudOS Relay event which was a huge success.

In-between the Cloud OS Relay events I managed to skip across the pond to Seattle to join some of the cleverest and most down to earth nice people that I've ever had the pleasure of meeting at my first MVP Summit.

So all in all, I've not really stopped since September (not to say that I wasn't busy before that!)

I'm hoping that I can start hitting the blog posts a bit more in the New Year and that I'll also be out and about doing some more presenting so watch this space...

Happy New Year to you!

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Network speed issues in Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V with Broadcom NICs

It’s been well documented that there are various problems with Broadcom network drivers in implementations of Hyper-V.
Some of these examples are:
Microsoft KB2902166 – Recommendation to disable VMQ with Broadcom NICs -
Guest Clustering Issues -
Guest Clustering Issues -
Updated Dell Driver for Broadcom NICs -
Various other posts that a simple Bing search will find you -

I was hoping that with the release of Windows Server 2012 R2 that these might be a thing of the past and the fixes introduced in the latest 2012 RTM drivers carried across.
How wrong could I be…

After deploying a 2 node 2012 R2 Hyper-V cluster I started to immediately notice slow network performance both deploying new VM’s and copying files between guest virtual machines.
To further confuse me, the problems were heavily present when copying to the host, or VM’s running on the host, that wasn’t the CSV owner.  This originally started me looking down the wrong path.

So, after trying multiple things, I came full circle back round to retesting VMQ & Broadcom settings.

At the moment it looks like the problem that I (and others) had experienced in the past with having VMQ enabled on Broadcom adapters is present with the inbox driver in R2 (version

As well as enabling/disabling VMQ I also stepped the driver down to the previous 2012 RTM version driver ( and it works fine with VMQ enabled.
I can now even swap between drivers without a reboot and show speed impact.

With VMQ Enabled, poor transfer speed between VM’s:

With VMQ Disabled, consistent (and better) transfer speeds regardless of VM/Node placement (Live Migration while copying):

In my environment that I was testing, I have Broadcom NetXtreme  B5720 Quad Port NICs in my blades and all firmware is up to date

Obviously I don’t really want to miss out on the VMQ features so for a while I ran the down level driver, hoping that a fix would appear.

Well, Broadcom have recently released an updated driver directly to their site.

This driver is dated 5th November 2013 and version

I’ve flattened my environment and let VMM install the updated driver during bare metal deployment and, touch wood, so far all VMQ related speed issues are fixed.

Looks like it’s something to bear in mind that the in-box Broadcom driver in R2 is broken while the current direct from Broadcom works.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Tech Days Online (6th November - 8th November)

Event Registration Link:

Come and join (virtually) a barrage of MVP's and experts presenting on a variety of topics over 3 days.  All online and streamed to the comfort of your, erm.. workplace??

Wednesday November 6 – Windows Client for IT Pros and Developers
Overview of Day 1
Windows 8.1 - Devices Galore
Windows 8.1 - MDOP (App-V, UEV)
Device Mgmt - InTune Configuration Manager
Interview with Steve Ballmer
Device Mgmt - Heteregeneous Device Management
Cloud Productivity - Managing Office 365
Building Business Applications  with Visual Studio DevOps
Windows 8.1 - Workplace Join
Windows 8.1 - VDI
Things you need to know about Intel vPro
Interview with Craig Ashley - Windows Product Management
Wrap-up of Day 1 + Preview of Next Two Days

Thursday November 7 – Server and Cloud for IT Pros
Overview of Day 2
2012 R2 - Virtualisation
Building Windows Server 2012 R2 Networking with System Center 2012 R2 Virtual Machine Manager
2012 R2 - Storage
Extreme Automation (Learn automation or get better at golf!)
What's new in Ops Manager
Cluster in a box
Moving VMs from on-premise to Azure
Automating the Azure Datacentre with PowerShell
Cloud backup
Windows Azure Platform
Wrap-up of Day 2 and Preview of Day 3

Friday November 8 – Visual Studio, Azure, Dev tools for Developers
Overview of Day 3
What's new in Visual Studio 2013 for App Developers
Agile development with Team Foundation Server
Building a Cloud Back-End to connect your Windows Phone and Windows Apps
Using the Nokia Music C# API on Windows Phone 8 / Windows 8
Azure Cloud Services Architecture
From Whiteboard to deployed in 15 minutes
What's new in Visual Studio 2013 for web developers
What's new in Windows 8.1 for App Development
Asynchronous C# development in Visual Studio 2013
Wrap-up of Day 3